Government announces Fareham Magistrates’ Court will close

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FAREHAM Magistrates’ Court is to close, the government has announced.

It is one of 86 courts to close across England and Wales.

Court closures are difficult decisions; local communities have strong allegiances to their local courts and I understand their concerns

Shailesh Vara

Chichester Magistrates’ Court is also due to close and Chichester Crown Court will shut but with changes to the original proposal.

The crown court’s work will either move to another court or another local facility will be found.

HM Courts and Tribunal Service has said all will shut within the next two years.

The decision document said: ‘The majority of the people living in the areas affected by the court closures will be within an acceptable travelling distance of the court where the work is transferred to.

‘This means that most individuals will still have reasonable journeys to court to attend hearings, including by public transport.’

A consultation launched in July last year said Fareham’s court had no staff permanently based at the site.

The court deals with adult and youth criminal cases.

The consultation added: ‘Fareham Magistrates’ Court was constructed in 1994 and the condition is generally poor.

‘Portsmouth Magistrates’ Court is in significantly better condition and offers improved facilities for court users.

‘Some enabling works would be required in Portsmouth Magistrates’ Court to ensure facilities are suitable for youth court hearings.’

In 2014/15 Fareham’s court was used for approximately 43 per cent of its capacity.

Its operating cost for that period was £280,000.

In a statement minister for the courts and legal aid, Shailesh Vara, said: ‘We are investing over £700m over the next 4 years to update the court and tribunal estate, installing modern IT systems and making the justice system more efficient and effective for modern users.’

He added: ‘As part of this modernisation, the court and tribunal estate has to be updated.

‘Many of the current 460 court buildings are underused: last year 48% of all courts and tribunals were empty for at least half their available hearing time. These buildings are expensive to maintain yet unsuitable for modern technology.

‘Court closures are difficult decisions; local communities have strong allegiances to their local courts and I understand their concerns.

‘But changes to the estate are vital if we are to modernise a system which everybody accepts is unwieldy, inefficient, slow, expensive to maintain and unduly bureaucratic.’